How Being a 5th Grade Loser Made Me a Better Person

Life is tough. Always has been, always will be. Sure some folks seem to have runs of good luck that last practically a lifetime. Then, there are folks like me. I’m not complaining. My life has been and continues to be quite good. I’m just saying that I’ve had some difficult times in my life. All of us have. The fact that this will always be the case, at least this side of Heaven, makes what I think is a disturbing and dangerous trend that much more serious. The “let’s make sure nobody has to suffer or get their feelings hurt” trend. I believe that this trend is a major contributing factor to many of the problems we have in America today.

May I offer up my fifth grade year as evidence that the normal, inevitable difficulties of life, even for children, will not irreparably damage us. In fact, when dealt with properly they probably make us better people. The year was 1979. My father, a pastor, had just moved my mom and I to Rockford, Alabama where he had accepted a call to to a local church. We were moving from a little town where we had lived in for three years. I had started the second grade there three years prior and had lots of friends. I attended a tiny school where I was quite content. It was literally like living in a real-life version of Mayberry. Suffice it to say that I had a much harder time making friends as a fifth grader at a new school than I had had as a second grader at a new school. I honestly can’t tell you why this was the case. All I know is that I was picked on mercilessly from day one. Maybe it’s because I was the epitome of a mama’s boy and remain such. It’s really irrelevant today why I stepped into the role of whipping boy. What matters is that I did. What else matters is how that experience went a long way in shaping who I am today as an adult and how I am hopefully teaching my children to live now and in the future when they become adults.

Remember how so many bad teen movies always found the popular kids voting for the kid nobody liked to be homecoming queen or something along those lines? That was me. I was elected to be the class president because everyone thought it would be funny. The worst part is that my teacher didn’t allow me be the president because she knew they were just mocking me and made the class vote again. Needless to say, I lost my second election. A double-whammy of sorts. Class president was a powerful position and might have afforded me the opportunity to exact revenge on my classmates. Or not. Anyway, I won’t give you all the gory details other than to say that I was so miserable that year that I literally tried to break my own ankle on the bus one day so that I could go home. I sat in the seat over the rear wheel and jammed my foot sideways into the corner of where the wheel-well jutted up and put the weight of each of my sixty pounds(if that) fully on it. It only got a little swollen so I was only allowed to go to the lunchroom for a few minutes and sit with some ice on it. I got along much better with the lunchroom ladies than my classmates. It was bad. But as bad as it was, my parents didn’t yank me out of school and send me off to a relative who lived in a better school district. They didn’t go to school with me and cast evil glances at anyone who happened to look at me in a threatening manner. They comforted me and encouraged me and somehow I made it through that year. They taught me the importance perseverance and other lessons I likely wouldn’t have been receptive to learning under different circumstances. Teachable moments, I think they’re called. 1979 was chock full of them.

These days we’ve got school officials who want to, and have in some cases, remove games like dodgeball from P.E. because the bigger, more athletic kids have an advantage over the smaller or less-coordinated kids(read this story for an example) who might lose or have their self-esteem damaged. You know what? They just might! You know what else? It won’t kill them and they’ll recover. I can’t imagine, short of literally getting beaten up or some other terrible physical treatment, that there are many kids who have had as tough a school year as I did in fifth grade. How did it help me? I think it helped me have a heart for the underdog. It taught me to have compassion for those who are struggling while at the same time teaching me that struggling is as much a part of life as breathing. I don’t think we do our children, or anyone else for that matter, any good when our prime objective is to shield them from every hardship or difficulty they might encounter.

Life can be brutally tough sometimes. The concept of social justice, while noble, is unattainable. At least it is in my estimation. The world will forever be populated by the “haves” and the “have-nots” on some level. We don’t have to like it but we have to learn to accept it. We must learn how to lose and then move on so that our failures don’t define us. In fact, maybe our failures can actually motivate us; spur us on to bigger and better things. Getting smashed in the face with one of those big, red balls, both literally and figuratively, while being laughed at by your friends can have that effect sometimes. Just ask these people.

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What do Robin Hood and Milton McGregor Have In Common? Nothing.

As I have perused the web looking for more information on the arrests of those arrested this morning for allegedly taking part in legislative vote-buying/selling, bribery and a litany of other charges, I’ve already come across several comments such as this one, gleaned from the comments section on a Birmingham News story:


Unedited and uncorrected: “The public officials who have stood up for whats right and provided jobs to thousands are the ones being arrested? I never thought Id see such a sad day in Alabamas history. I really cant believe my eyes when I read some of the names of the people who are being arrested. These are the only politicians left in the state who tried to stand up against Bob Riley and look whats happening to them. This is a real travesty whats happening today and once these people are found innocent we can all breath easier.”


There were many other comments, far more than I cared to read, expressing outrage and disappointment and sadness that these eleven people, including four state legislators, were arrested for looking out for the interests of the people of Alabama. Really? Seriously? These legislators were allegedly offered exorbitant amounts of cash, some in the form of campaign contributions, some to use at their own discretion, in exchange for their vote in favor of a bill that would have given the two gambling magnates involved in this case practically exclusive rights to run casinos in the state of Alabama. The legislators were also to try and influence their colleagues to support the measure.  Each of the eleven people indicted is alleged to have acted illegally in various ways. Extortion, bribery, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and making a false statement among other charges. This isn’t an episode of The Sopranos, this is real life right here in Alabama. I defy anyone to explain to me, reasonably and logically, how these people were acting in the best interest of the citizens of the state of Alabama. Each of them stood to make an awful lot of money for themselves and I’m quite certain that they didn’t plan on sharing that money with their constituents. For the sake of discussion, though, even if they did plan to send us all a check for our share, what they are accused of doing is ILLEGAL! Therein lies the rub.

It doesn’t matter how honorable their intentions might have been(I say this while trying to suppress a chuckle), if they did what they are accused of doing then they broke the law. Just because they are politicians, lobbyists, or gambling bosses with deep, deep pockets doesn’t give them a get out of jail free card. Just because the casinos they wanted to build might have created jobs doesn’t make the fact that they subverted laws regarding such activity okay. In our country, at least for the time being, we all are subject to the laws which govern us. If we break the law, we must face the consequences. Laws exist so that anarchy doesn’t rule the day and the rich and powerful don’t become the rich and ALL-powerful; above the law.

Let’s be honest, though. This alleged misconduct was born out of raw greed and nothing more. These individuals saw an opportunity to line their own pockets with, as my father calls it, ill-gotten-gain and they jumped at the chance. They sacrificed their supposed morals and values at the alter of the almighty dollar and they got caught. The thing I find hardest to believe is that anyone finds any of this hard to believe. One of the most misquoted verses in scripture is 1 Timothy 6:10. Many mistakenly say it as, “money is the root of all evil.” It actually says “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” There is a difference. There are people who have a lot of money who do things the right way. Plenty of them. Then, there are the lovers of money. These folks’ love of money overwhelmed them to the point that they risked much to get as much of it as they could from Mr. McGregor and Mr. Gilley. These two gentlemen and their intermediaries were more than happy to oblige. This is what money can do to people. This is what greed does to people. This is the kind of havoc that gambling stands to wreak on our state should it ever become even more widespread than it already is. I, for one, want no part of it. We should be celebrating that these so-called public servants were caught rather than lauding them as some sort modern day Robin Hood and his band of merry thieves who only were trying to take care of the less fortunate. Bunk. Well, the thieves part may just be right on the money. No pun intended.

Big News on the Gambling Front

Huge news regarding the alleged corruption in the legislature on the gambling issue. Milton McGregor, above, was arrested along with others. Click the link below to read the news release from the Department of Justice.